Slogans claimed a partisanship of which Lady Science and Mother Nature are unaware. We, humans, may wish that the universe or nature or Terra (Earth) has positive goals and good vibrations, but what with crashing black holes, cataclysmic events in the universe and on earth, the appearance and disappearance of species, continents, polar ice caps, and the like over billions of years, we should quickly realize our anthropomorphisms, personifications and projections of our human needs and wants onto the material world is just that - wishful thinking, a very human enterprise.
"I'm with her," "Climate Justice" or "The Oceans are Rising and so are we" are words and emotions that we, as humans, may care deeply about.
But Mother Nature and Lady Science don't care at all - except in our fantasies about what these personae ought to be.
Put even more bluntly, science and nature are about what is and not what ought to be. That is an illogical leap of faith that may be supported by religious, humanistic and other ideological values, but not by logic or the practice of science. Yes, we humans get motivated by values - but these are grounded in religious and other ideological systems.
|March for Science, San Diego / At the Civic Center|
Neither Lady Science, nor Mother Nature, give a whit about the climate or climate change. Those that think they do may also believe that God is a man with a long white beard or that he or she walked in the Garden of Eden. These are wishes and wants personified and anthropomorphized.
As all scientists, and non-scientists, know, science is about method, about empirical description and testing hypotheses. It is not about what ought to be, but what is.
The imposition of what ought to be, what should be done, is a matter of values - values from our religion, our secular humanism, our codes of conduct, our visions inscribed in 3D sci-fi movies, but not found within the domain of the scientific method.
And yet, there are those who are marching in the belief that science wants something to be done -- to do X, Y or Z. That is an example of emotional attachment, but not of critical thinking.
The 97% error
One too often hears that 97% of scientists agree that climate change is real. I would imagine that the percent is really 100%, especially since climate change has been affecting earth for billions of years. There are no denialists of this understanding of climate change.
A cautionary note: Any analysis that enters into the climate change picture in recent history (rather than geological time) is subject to ad hominem attacks, especially by those who fear the worst and are alarmed more by refrigeration than by terrorism. The perspective taken here is one of climate realism (not alarmism). The 'threat' analysis by Dr. Judith Curry, a climatologist with considerable research and publications, is instructive for those who understand the uncertainty in climate modeling: Discussion of climate threat and risk that connote impending damage and that such is quantifiable and avoidable "mislead the public debate on climate change — any damages from human caused climate change are not imminent, we cannot quantify the risk owing to deep uncertainties, and any conceivable policy for reducing CO2 emissions will have little impact on the hypothesized damages in the 21st century."
Back to the 97% error . . .
Unfortunately most who recite the 97% mantra are unaware that the number is the result of bad statistics.
John Cook of the Global Change Institute in Australia, created this number from his review of published scientific papers, "over 97 percent [of papers surveyed] endorsed the view that the Earth is warming up and human emissions of greenhouse gases are the main cause.”
Alex Epstein analyzes Cook's argument: “'Main cause' means “over 50 percent. But the vast majority of papers don’t say that human beings are the main cause of recent warming. In fact, one analysis showed that less than 2 percent of papers actually said that. How did Cook get to 97 percent, then? First, he added papers that explicitly said there was man-made warming but didn’t say how much. Then, he added papers that didn’t even say there was man-made warming, but he thought it was implied."
There are numerous articles refuting the claim that such a majority of scientists believe that climate change (as global warming) is dangerous - that it is occurring and by how much is a matter of climate scientific investigation, Here we enter into the split between social science, polling data and physical science. The divide between these two perspectives is immense.
|Faculty preparing to join the main group at the Civic Center|
Sitting as a juror, one can listen to attorneys for the defense and the prosecution argue a different set of 'facts' - sometimes they simply mean that one witness is more believable than the another, or that each side takes on experts who argue their own theory of causation or that the defendant is insane or not, and the like. A different world of events and responsibility is painted by opposing attorneys. We accept this advocacy model of 'facts' because that is what lawyers do in our legal system. And then the jury gets to vote on which set of facts are determinative for their collective verdict. A consensus as it were.
But is this what we expect of the scientific process and scientific facts?
|Poster / No Alternative Facts in Science|
Ulcers are caused by stress. Or so said medical science prior to 1986. Then a scientist, Barry Marshall, argued that it was a bacterium for the large majority of ulcers - Helicobacter pylori. And he won a Nobel Prize in 2005 for his argument or theory or, if we prefer, fact.
Medical science as well as all branches of science proceeds by leaps and bounds - with alternative facts becoming the new 'truth.'
Here is an interesting comment by Barry Marshall, the proponent of the bacterium cause for ulcers:
"There's a saying, 'Science is not a democracy.' It doesn't matter how many millions of people there are on the other side. There's one right, and it's perfectly possible for all the rest to be wrong. And ultimately all those guys were proved wrong, and they either retired or they came over the side of Helicobacter . . . David Graham said, "The great thing about Marshall's theory is that if he's wrong, it's going to be so easy to disprove." The point he was making was that if it's a good hypothesis, you can test it. And ours was very testable; you just had to give people antibiotics and see if they got better. And they did. So everybody who was trying to prove us wrong, if they were good scientists, they just changed sides."
So, what about climate science? Are we in the 'stress causes ulcers' or 'bacterium causes ulcers' arc of scientific knowledge?
Would you bet your life on 'humans cause the large proportion of climate change' or on 'humans may contribute a small percentage of climate change'?
Some considerations before you make your wager:
1. Our knowledge of how much climate will change is based on computer models - none of which have been correct over the years. The models are said to run 'hot' - and need to be scaled back to observation data.
2. The list of failed climate predictions is long. Failure of scientific predictions in general has an even longer list. Are these predictions 'facts'? Here is a typical surprise - but is the surprise an 'alternative fact' or are the predictions 'alternative facts'? When does something become a 'fact'? (Which is critically important in the climate science debate since the impacts are predicted to the end of the century.)
Where have all the hurricanes gone? Sept. 14, 2013
"Call it a meteorological mystery: Forecasters warned that there would be at least six Atlantic hurricanes this season, but so far we've seen only one."
"It's the first year in recent memory that every major hurricane forecast has busted after pointing to 'above normal activity.'"
3. The data continues to be debated or, perhaps, finagled in questionable ways to hype global warming: Australia Weather Bureau Caught Tampering With Climate Numbers, August 2, 2017 August 2, 2017 August 2, 2017August 2, 2017.
4. Red Teaming? Given the intense debate over the nature and extent of climate change, especially in relation to human activity, and the trillions of dollars poised to be spent in corrective measures which may be unnecessary or poorly considered, the better approach may not be one of pitting a 'consensus' vs. 'alternative facts,' but of having an independent analysis that challenges the official dogma. That's called Red Teaming. Red Teaming has proven useful in various endeavors and such would force pro and con to debate the science in an neutral forum.
|Posters / I'm with her and Make America Scientific Again|
The participants in the March for Science appear to be caught up in anti-President Trump hysteria than seeking science. The politicization of science may be good for partisanship, but it does little for the merits of the climate science debate.
There's another aspect of this marching. I suspect that many fear that even if their facts are not quite right, but even if there's a far-out but potential risk of catastrophic damage from anthropogenic caused climate change, it's worth spending trillions of dollars as an insurance policy.
Bret Stephens took up this and other questions in questions from readers of the New York Times. Particularly telling is his response to this insuring for the future:
"How much [insurance[? Homeowners will buy fire insurance, but they’ll also weigh the price in light of their overall needs. We need to hedge against prospective risks. We need to provide for current needs. The climate-advocacy community sometimes conveys the impression that all of this is not just necessary, but relatively straightforward and affordable. I wish it were that simple.
"A decade ago we were plowing money into ethanol subsidies as one response to climate change. But that turned out to be not just environmentally destructive but was also arguably responsible for the spike in food prices that soon followed, as farmers turned away from cultivating corn for human consumption to cultivating it for ethanol production. Another example: The New York Times recently reported on the massive increase in smog over London. The cause?
"Let me quote from the story:
“The British government provided financial incentives to encourage a shift to diesel engines because laboratory tests suggested that would cut harmful emissions and combat climate change. Yet, it turned out that diesel cars emit on average five times as much emissions in real-world driving conditions as in the tests, according to a British Department for Transport study.”
"In other words, to say we want to take out insurance for climate change is perfectly sensible. But whether we know we’re buying the right insurance, at the right price, is less clear, and it behooves us to look closely at the fine print before we sign on."
|Posters at the Civic Center / Dump Trump, Global Warming is Real, and Trump/Pruitt, Extinction Level Event|
|Poster at Water Park, County Administration Building / If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the precipitate (Trump)|
Should we be more concerned about social problems confronting us in the immediate future or those a century from now? Ought we not pay attention to what is in front of us?
|Homeless in San Diego - Not on the march route|
Most survey respondents, when asked in 2014 about what problems need attention, rank the problem of environment/pollution low when presented with the range of societal concerns. Three years later, the ranking of the environment/pollution is still low.
From the monthly Gallup poll:
"What do you think is the most important problem facing the country today?" 
If you are looking for an answer to these societal concerns, you can look to the government (local, state and federal) or you can March for X, Y and Z. Or, you can meditate on the inability of humankind to solve these problems. One can think of King Canute in the 12th century being asked that he hold back the waves. And now we are asked to control the global climate.
Humility may be the key to such worries and demands.